(Photo: Outside a WalMart in China.)
Harper was with my brother’s family as they pulled their van into Wal-Mart.
“WalMart,” Harper, 5, said. “We don’t shop there because they don’t treat their workers right.”
Kyle, my brother, thought this was funny when he told me. But I can’t help but think it’s a bit annoying too.
Let me say this. I’m not better than you because I don’t shop at WalMart. I just can’t do it. I have friends who work at WalMart and I’m glad they have jobs, but still, I just can’t do it.
I wrote the following in the Huffington Post (how annoying am I?! I even write about WalMart in the Huffington Post!) right around the time Harper and I had our first conversation about why we don’t shop there:
I have an online friend who works for Walmart. I emailed him before Black Friday asking him what he thought of the Walmart workers threatening to strike in the United States.
Here’s what he told me:
“I don’t like working 12 hours so people can trample each other to buy $4 bath towels for $1.88 or a $60 DVD player for $25. But here’s the thing: I don’t like everything about the job, but I knew the nature of this beast when I applied for the job. And in the present economy, I feel blessed to have a job. There are changes that ought to be made. Others that need to be made, but you won’t find me on a picket line. I need a job too badly to complain.”His statement sounds an awfully lot like how we justify workers in Bangladesh earning a monthly income of $37 and having to spend almost half of that income just to feed their families rice: they need the opportunity.
In the name of lack of opportunity and poverty, we are exploiting American workers and Bangladeshi workers.
How long will we justify injustice?
We are paying a high cost for chasing low prices. As many as 80 percent of Walmart employees at some stores are on food stamps. In total Walmart employees receive $2.66 billion in government subsidies. Since 2006, 700 Bangladeshis have died in garment fires. When we demand everyday low prices, we get everyday low wages and bad working conditions. We are saving money, but are we living better?
There’s another really good reason to not shop at WalMart. WalMart doesn’t have unannounced inspections of the factories they source from. Target on the other hand does.
But there are reasons to shop at WalMart: low prices and one-stop shopping. This is why millenials under the age of 24 prefer shopping at WalMart to any other retailer. From AdAge:
“Millennials now, as a generation, like Walmart the best, more so than Generation X, more so than boomers,” said Matt Kistler, Walmart senior VP-consumer insights and analytics.
“That kind of shocks a lot of people, including inside the company,” admitted Walmart Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Quinn.
It doesn’t exactly jibe with the perception that big-box supercenters are losing ground to niche brands, small stores and e-commerce. Mr. Quinn sees it differently. “As millennials become time-crunched with relationships and kids coming along, it’s opening up a strong need for them to have a one-stop shop,” he said.
Millennials were also the first generation to grow up in a time where Walmart was a dominant retailer. “It could be their Baby Boomer parents dragged them to Walmart so much it feels a bit like home,” said Mr. Quinn.
In fact, this surprised me as well. In EATING I found research that showed millennials were less loyal to brands and more willing to shop differently–no longer insisting on one stop shopping–which was presented as a troubling trend for the big box stores.
Will Harper grow up and shop at WalMart? Who knows? I’m doing my best to brainwash her.
Here’s a dose of reality. There have been times in the past when our budget was really tight and we gave WalMart a go, choosing our family’s budget over the family budgets and well being of other families around the globe.
But I much prefer when NOT shopping at WalMart is a luxury we can afford.